When Morris finally hit the showers, he received another reminder of how he had taken his previous life for granted. "You shower in an NFL locker room and you have all that space," he says. "They give you those Nike flip-flops and big, fluffy towels. In jail you'd have this tiny cubicle with a moldy curtain hanging down, and the water was either way too hot or way too cold."
After being released one minute past midnight on the morning before Easter, Morris rode home to Cooper and got into the shower, where Stephanie "scrubbed me down with everything but Lysol." There was no point in trying to wash away the memories of his time in jail: the shame Bam felt when his mother, Marie, came to visit; the nights he lay awake with tears in his eyes wondering if Stephanie would stand by him; the days when the jail's rust-tinged tap water and industrial soap conspired to make Barn's face and body break out in hives. When Stephanie's grandmother died in February, Bam, who'd been close to her, missed the funeral. He washed dishes during the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl victory over the Green Bay Packers, keeping tabs occasionally by peering at a small television set inside an adjacent storage room.
Two Super Sundays earlier in Tempe, Ariz., Morris had run for 73 yards and a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys and had sparked the Steelers' second-half comeback. Pittsburgh fell short by a 27-17 score, but Morris, an emerging star after two NFL seasons, felt like a winner. He had started celebrating his good fortune in the days leading up to the '96 Super Bowl, and he kicked his partying into another gear in the weeks following the game. "Something changed," Stephanie recalls. "He got cocky. He was the Man. I didn't know him, and pretty soon I didn't like him." Bam and Stephanie had planned to marry in Jamaica that February, but Stephanie called off the wedding. Undaunted, Bam kept indulging in alcohol and marijuana and acting as though nothing could bring him down.
On March 23, 1996, Morris was stopped for swerving while driving just outside of Rockwall. He allowed an officer to search his trunk, which contained more than five pounds of marijuana. "It didn't surprise me that he got into trouble—we could all see that coming—but the amount of marijuana was staggering," says former Pittsburgh tackle James Parrish.
Morris initially told authorities that the marijuana was not his, but three months later he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession and received six years' probation, 200 hours of community service and a $7,000 fine. The Steelers released him a few days later, and the NFL suspended him for the first four games of the '96 season.
Morris cleaned up his act somewhat after his guilty plea, and he began to look like a steal for the Ravens, who signed him to a two-year, $1.8 million contract. In the final seven games of the '96 season he ran for 618 yards, second only to Barry Sanders among NFL backs during that span. But last summer, in one of the random tests the league had required him to take for violating its drug policy, he tested positive for alcohol, and the NFL slapped him with another four-game suspension to start the season. Still, Morris finished '97 as Baltimore's leading rusher, with 774 yards.
An almost universally well liked player, Morris has now pushed his career to the brink of extinction. The Ravens gave up on him in January, and as he tries to hook on with another team—the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams are possibilities—Morris must reckon with the consequences of the reputation he has earned. I fear the next mishap," says Baltimore owner Art Modell, "because it'll probably be the last one." To avoid that bleak scenario, Morris knows he will have to curb the fun-seeking, all-trusting tendencies that helped put him in this mess. "There are some bad kids in this league," Modell says, "but Bam is not one of them."
"Even as a baby, Bam couldn't sleep," Marie Morris says. "I'd put him on my chest, and if I moved, he'd wake up. He was so rambunctious, so full of life."
Marie and her husband of 45 years, Herman, had 10 children. Bam was the baby, and more than just chronologically. One of his five brothers, Ronnie, was a Chicago Bears receiver from 1987 to '92, but it was Bam who emerged as the pride of Cooper, a town of 2,153 in northeast Texas near the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders. "This town has babied Bam from the start," Horace Jeffery of Cooper Auto Sales said last Thursday as he looked at the billboard along Highway 24 that celebrates Cooper as the boyhood home of Ronnie and Bam. As Bam grew into a full-sized adult, starring at Texas Tech and then rushing for 836 yards as a Steelers rookie in 1994, he continued to harbor a childlike affection for Marie. "I met him at the end of that season," says Stephanie, who married him in November '96, "and one thing that attracted me was his love for his mother. I thought, Wow, I've never seen a man like this. He loves the ground she walks on, and she's all he talks about. This is kind of weird."
This was not the only manifestation of Morris's childishness, which was maddening not only to Stephanie but also to his teammates and coaches. "Everyone pretty much looked at him as a big kid," Parrish says. "He'd parade around the locker room, cackling up a storm, and then he'd go off chasing fun."